Succor to the Plotless

12, December,2006

Succor to the Plotless How Not to Write a Novel Part II

I was starting to knock up, How Not to Write a Novel Part II, (something clever about not having a plot), then I heard a snippet from a Book Show podcast and it occurred to me that I might be doing it right after all.

Writers on writing: Kate Grenville, Geoffrey Atherden and Mark Tredinnick

Kate Grenville tells of 20 drafts and described the plotting of one of her novels as starting with a problem and muddling her way through – “writing by exploration rather than certainty.”

Then I also remembered something I read about Robert Rankin

“The point is when I write them, the only way I can write is literally not thinking about it. If you think about it, think about it, think about it you can’t work”.

“I mean every time I start a new book, I don’t know how to write. I just stare at a blank exercise book and think how do you do this? I don’t know how to do this. And suddenly you just do it. What always knocks me out is, I write something or other in the first chapter that doesn’t appear make sense, and then later on in the book you realise well of course this happened because that happened and its all as if its all preplanned out in your head but you knew it but its all coming out. And my Doctor says that if I keep on the tablets I’ll be fine.”

Of course I took this with a grain of salt.  Rankin is probably not someone you should go to for sound and sane advice.

So I checked out the godfather of chuckles,
Terry Pratchett.

“I never plot out the story-lines in the way you’re thinking about. You know, 150 little cards, each one with a little scene written out. I don’t do it like that.”

“I’ll start off with a couple of ideas and maybe a character and theme which I’ll think about for a while: how will that work, well, we’ll do this, we’ll do that, we might need another character too.”

“It’s ridiculous talking about drafts in any case when you’re working on a word processor, because I can go backwards and forwards. I’m writing the end of the next book now, very nearly the last scene. But I haven’t finished parts of the middle, although I know what they are going to be and I know what has got to happen there.”

Less reassuringly he also said, “but you can’t build a plot out of jokes” , which presents is a problem for me, because jokes are the back bone of everything I write.

So what does this tell us?  Well obviously, not plotting will make you write like Grenville, Pratchett and Rankin.  So in terms of writing methods, I guess I’m on a winner.


3 Responses to “Succor to the Plotless”

  1. AShR Says:

    In ‘On Writing’ Stephen King says on this:

    “In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.

    “You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer – my answer, anyway – is nowhere. I won’t try to convince yuo that I’ve never plotted, any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless […]; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible…”

  2. Cameron Says:

    If it’s good enough for Stephen King it’s good enough for me. Honestly, this writing game is just a lark. These people are just making it up as they go along and raking in the cash.

  3. Lesley Dewar Says:

    This was my first time at the Perth Writer’s Festival and I just loved it! Mark’s workshop and his two books have made a great impact on me and I think they should be standard text books in all schools.


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